Annapolis City Council members said Thursday that the city will issue summons for two property management companies accused of grossly neglecting their apartment communities.
Representatives from Fairstead Management Inc. and Enterprise Residential LLC, the property managers of Woodside Gardens and Admiral Oaks, respectively, failed to show at the council’s Housing and Human Welfare committee meeting as requested on Thursday.
“I want the record to state clearly that Fairstead, representing Woodside Gardens, refused communications until the last minute,” Ward 6 Alderman DaJuan Gay said, before invoking his subpoena authority as the committee’s chair. “I haven’t heard a single thing from Admiral Oaks or their property management company.”
Gay read off a list of city codes both companies are accused of violating, including building and construction regulations, building services and sanitation issues and owner-operator rules.
The summons procedures follow a Sept. 20 committee meeting where residents of both properties described extensive issues with mold, rodents, crime, alleged unlawful evictions and unresponsive property managers.
“We have tried repeatedly to communicate with both,” Gay said. “We will move forward with the summons.”
Gay also asked the city’s Office of Law “to move forward with fines and removal of residential licenses for properties for those two properties.”
A spokesperson for Fairstead, which is based in New York, said on Friday that the company only learned on Wednesday that it was asked to attend the committee meeting. In a letter addressed to Gay and his fellow committee members, Fairstead vice president Chris Manning said, “We appreciate your interest and commitment to our shared goal of improving housing conditions for all Annapolis residents and look forward to future discussions on the topic.”
The company plans to attend the committee’s next meeting, which is scheduled for Oct. 20, the spokesperson said.
Admiral Oaks is managed by Enterprise Residential, a subsidiary of the Baltimore-based nonprofit Enterprise Community Development, Inc., one of the nation’s largest affordable housing management and development firms. According to the company’s website, Enterprise has invested $54 billion and created 873,000 homes across all 50 states. On Tuesday, the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development announced that Enterprise would be receiving nearly $3 million in tax credits for two more rental communities in Baltimore and Howard counties.
Enterprise did not respond to a request for comment.
Two other management companies, Pennrose and the Housing Authority of Annapolis, did send representatives to the committee meeting as requested. Both pledged to improve communication with residents and described efforts to mitigate mold and mice at their properties. Gay thanked both Pennrose vice president Marsha Blunt and Cheri Hall, a HACA property manager, for attending.
“I really appreciate you all being before us today because I think it sets a good tone for the residents,” Gay said. “It shows that you really, really care.”
Blunt described her company’s response to a mold situation at Obery Court in detail and acknowledged the high turnover rate of onsite property managers. “If someone is not doing their job, we have to replace them. And that’s just the honest truth there,” Blunt said. Obery Court also has hired a new, more reliable trash hauler, she said.
Pennrose also manages Wilbourn Estates, a rebuilt public/private partnership community that opened in June. At last week’s meeting, a tenant complained about leaks and plumbing issues. Ward 1 Alderwoman Elly Tierney said she’d found that account, “very disappointing.”
“It’s newly built and it’s supposed to be our prototype for the future,” Tierney said.
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Blunt defended that issue as a “one-off” resulting from something on the roof. “Nothing is perfect, right?” she said. “We do try to make sure that we stay on top of things.”
Alderman Brooks Schandelmeier, who represents Ward 5, grilled HACA’s representative about rodent issues at the Robinwood and Bloomsbury Square communities. Hall agreed that current efforts by Terminix, the current pest control contractor, “are not working.” She blamed the properties’ wooded surroundings but pledged to do more.
Toni Strong Pratt, a former City Council candidate and a housing advocate who helped organize tenant testimony at least week’s meeting, was impressed that Gay, Tierney and Schandelmeier moved so quickly to get an audience with the property management firms.
“It is awesome that they are holding landlords accountable,” Pratt said. “This is long overdue.”
Pratt said mold issues continue to plague Admiral Oaks, where she knows of at least one resident who has been in a hotel for six weeks. At Woodside Gardens, Pratt said renovations have been running behind schedule and residents have been unable to access their belongings in storage. Crime also has been an issue at the community, and at least one resident was “targeted for eviction” after she complained to management about safety, Pratt said.
Her hope now is that the city will move forward with the summons for Fairstead and Enterprise while continuing to push all landlords to abide by city housing codes.
“I just have to pray the follow through,” Pratt said.